Volume 14 • Number 2 • Fall-Winter 2022-2023

alejandra peña

a form of survival

i think i killed my plant by not watering it. well, it is not dead yet. some of its limbs droop and hang like saggy skin and some of its leaves are yellow. they are not a happy yellow or a soothing yellow like my favorite color because they are still tinted with dark green. it is simply a color that is a reminder of its proximity to death. my plant is telling me, “help, i am alive, but i need you.” still, they are not dead, they are not black yet, they are not crumbled like paper. yet. so, what is the opposite of blooming, then, if it is not death? i think i could save it if i tried. like if i watered it more and gave it a nice pot and talked to it like all those scientific journals say to do if i cared enough for it to bloom—if its color changing from grey-yellow, to yellow, to light green, to a bright, deep green could offer some sort of deep satisfaction, some sort of reminder that re-birth is possible, that life can exist in the ugliest of colors. maybe the lack of blooming is not death. maybe it is something else entirely, something that i do not comprehend, but i am learning to.

i think i would have thrown the plant away entirely last year by considering its lack of blooming as death. i think i would have not thought to understand what it means to start over and what it means to ask for help, and to offer it. i think this because i experienced tiny little deaths over and over at the hands of someone who asked for sacrifice but only offered pesticide disguised as soil in return. pluck, pluck, pluck, pluck, pluck, pluck until there is nothing left but yellow leaves. pluck, pluck, pluck, pluck, pluck until there is only something left that is unrecognizable. violence. something to be discarded. i thought i was meant to be discarded. too many yellow leaves if there were any left at all. violence.

but i am not a plant. i am just a 22-year-old girl (woman?) inconveniencing their neighbors by anxiously smoking a cigarette on their patio while drenched in sweat because their living room has too many memories of past arguments that happened there last year, on their couch, drenched in sweat, but not due to the yellow warmth of sunlight. what is the opposite of blooming, then, if it is not death? i have not experienced epiphany or catharsis while writing this and my hands shake. but i think the opposite of blooming simply means that there is opportunity for growth, because death is not imminent. the yellow dying leaves are simply a form of survival.

alejandra peña is a lesbian, chicana poet from east dallas. she loves her pug kiwi & the moon.